Why honesty trumps all else

A PR pro rejects the very idea of ‘spin’ after a conversation about a loved one’s health care.

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Twelve years ago, stage 4 breast cancer threatened my mother’s existence. Through a series of difficult medical treatments and an abundance of prayer, the miracle happened: The cancer was defeated. But as is often the case with this terrible disease, its failure was not permanent. The cancer returned last year and has proven frustratingly resilient. Treatment has been ended as Mom considers her next steps.

God has been generous with His miracles in my family’s life; I’m confident His supply hasn’t dwindled. At the same time, I know that life ends for all of us, usually sooner than we wish. How we face that fact, be it for ourselves or for a loved one, has immense importance.

As a professional communicator, I was intrigued by the approach of the caseworker. She was kind, empathetic—and brutally honest. My initial reaction was, “Wow, that’s cold!” But almost immediately I realized that anything less than honesty and transparency does a gross disservice to the patient. Evasive platitudes won’t help Mom make the decisions she must make, and they won’t help the family deal with the road that lies ahead.

From that conversation, my respect for hospice has grown.

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